ALCS Preview: Kansas City Royals vs Baltimore Orioles
By Jared Peterman
The Baltimore Orioles host the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after each team swept their opponents in the divisional series round. Baltimore’s offense showed up in their sweep of the Detroit Tigers as they scored 21 runs, as well as their pitching staff, allowing 11 runs over the three games. Kansas City’s late season heroics continued during the ALDS vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as they won their first two games in extra innings before capping off the series with their first nine inning regulation win. Baltimore reaches the ALCS for the first time since 1997, while KC enters the series for the first time since 1985. The two playoff drought franchises will find themselves in unfamiliar territory together, but each team has veterans with postseason success. Nelson Cruz has flexed his muscles in October, swatting 16HR over his postseason career, tied for ninth all-time on the postseason home run leaders. Cruz surpassed Babe Ruth on the all-time list with his two home runs against Detroit in the ALDS. James Shields, who will pitch Game 1 of the ALCS, pitched Kansas City to victory in Game 3 of the ALDS by going six innings, allowing two earned runs, and striking out six. This was a much better showing for the Kansas City ace as he also pitched in the Wild Card game where he didn’t have much success through five innings. Look for these two players to have a major impact on their team’s success. Despite not having postseason experience, each team hasn’t faltered for a second as they dominated their respective series. Orioles starting pitching went toe-to-toe with Detroit’s rotation of aces, including a stellar start by SP Bud Norris in the final game of the series. It’s unknown how manager, Buck Showalter, will handle Baltimore’s rotation through the ALCS, but I have major issues with starting Miguel Gonzalez in a potential Game 3 or Game 4. The bats of Kansas City have awaken for the month of October, especially 1B Eric Hosmer, but the top of the order consisting of Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki will need to make their presence felt in the series to keep the bats hot. Escobar and Aoki leadoff and hit second for the Royals and failed to produce against the Angels, but must find ways on base for success in the ALCS. Meanwhile, the Royals have shown excellence in the fundamentals of the game by some great defense and base running led by OF Lorenzo Cain making spectacular grabs and OF Jarrod Dyson swiping bags. Managing the bullpen has seem to become an Achilles heel throughout this postseason for managers and both managers have lockdown, back of the end bullpens at their display to play with. Orioles’ slugger, Chris Davis will still sit out the ALCS due to his suspension for amphetamines, but the offense hasn’t lacked in any way in the absence of Davis. Baltimore has adjusted seamlessly all season to any adversity as they ran away with the AL East without C Matt Wieters and 3B Manny Machado for most of the season. Kansas City’s pitching is favored to Baltimore’s, but as they Orioles have shown, their bats are hard to tame. Expect a live series that goes to six games in the favor of Baltimore.